OSHA has published a Final Rule in the Federal Register that will delay the deadline for crane operator certification by one year. The new deadline is Nov. 10, 2018, and is effective immediately. OSHA is also extending its employer duty to ensure that crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely for the same one-year period.
The notice, which comes just one day before the certification requirement was due to come into effect, follows publication of a Proposed Rule in August in which OSHA announced its plans for the postponement.
OSHA believes that an additional year will be sufficient to address the two issues that have concerned industry since the rule was published in 2010. These include whether an operator needs to be certified by type and capacity, or just by type, and if certification is sufficient by itself to deem an operator qualified to run a crane.
Comments from the Industry
In August 2018, OSHA announced it was seeking comment to delay crane operator certification to 2018. In the Federal Register, it said the majority of comments supported the agency’s proposed extension of the deadline for crane operators to be certified, and most agreed that an extension was necessary to give OSHA time to address the issues removing capacity from the crane standard’s certification requirements and the preservation of the employer’s role in assessing operators for safe crane operation. Below are some of the comments made in support of the delay:
- National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) supports this rule “only in response to OSHA’s stated need to address these two issues.”
- The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) stated that they along with “contractors, insurers, trade associations, and third-party certification bodies agree on the problems OSHA has identified . . . that OSHA’s `deemed qualified’ language eliminates the employer’s duty . . .” and “that certification by `capacity’ should be eliminated from the regulatory requirements.”
- Edison Electrical Institute hopes that “OSHA works to clarify and formulate the necessary requirements for operator certification and qualification under the final rule” as “[t]here are still many questions that require answers on the certification process and granting this extension will enable OSHA to continue its work with impacted parties to ensure compliance is met and clarity is achieved.”
- Imperial Crane Services, Inc., and the Chicago Crane Owners Association support the extension “so that crane operator’s proficiency/qualification can be further clarified in the existing cranes and derrick standard.”
- The Texas Crane Owners Association asserts that without an extension, “the obligations under [the crane standard] will undoubtedly disrupt the construction industry by creating a large number of crane operators without compliant certification.”
- The Associated General Contractors of America agrees that failure to delay the compliance date “could potentially result in significant disruptions in the construction industry with the number of crane operators in possession of certifications that would be deemed non-compliant if the November 10, 2017, effective date remains in place.”
- The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., (ABC) commented that “many in the construction industry believe that without an extension the industry will face a future crane operator shortage. For the industry to continue to perform work without disruption, it is important an extension is granted.”
There were also comments made that opposed the extension of the certification deadline and expressed concern that it would lead to unsafe work sites.
- Jack Pitt of Murray State University commented that if OSHA delayed the compliance date, “then safety would not be a priority,” continuing that it was his opinion that requiring certification immediately “would eliminate quite a number of fatalities and injuries…”Chas Scott, also of Murray State University commented that “[t]he longer the rule is delayed, the more fatalities that are likely to occur.”
- An anonymous commenter stated that “[s]afety conscious construction employers know or should have known of this new operator certification requirement and have been given a substantial amount of time to comply.”
Based on the record as a whole, OSHA finds the arguments in favor of delaying the operator certification deadline to be more persuasive. OSHA shares the commenters’ concerns about a potential disruption to the industry that might occur if the majority of certified operators currently hold a form of certification that would not comply with OSHA’s standard with the capacity component in place.
OSHA also acknowledges the commenters’ point that while there has been time for more operators to become certified, many employers may have delayed in requiring their employees to be certified while they waited for OSHA to clarify the criteria for the certification so that they could avoid spending funds on a certification that would not meet OSHA’s standard.
To the extent that the Agency’s actions have contributed to this uncertainty, OSHA agrees that it would not be fair to penalize employers by enforcing the certification requirement before completing the separate rulemaking to change that criteria. The additional one-year extension will provide the Agency with the time it needs to address those concerns.